I admit it--I was impressed with Windows Phone 7. True, the press conference Microsoft held on Monday in New York City to announce its new mobile platform didn't have the same cache as equivalent bashes back in the day.
Monday's announcement did repeat a couple of too-familiar Microsoft tropes -- an enthusiastic Steve Ballmer kickoff (he was actually rather restrained this time) and a no-feature-left-undemonstrated walkthrough by #windowsphone7 design team leader Joe Belfiore.
That stuff aside, the there there that Microsoft debuted is the real deal this time. True, it took them umpteen iterations to get their mobile platform right. Paradoxically, this may be to Redmond's benefit. Windows Phone 7 might not display noticeably more innovation than Blackberry, iPhone, and Android, which is my No. 1 minus. However, its elegant interface puts enough daylight between Microsoft and its competitors so that that shouldn't matter.
Where I think Microsoft is missing an opportunity is that they're bending over so far backwards to appeal to consumers that they're neglecting a big potential market. (This is my No. 2 minus.) That would be enterprise users.
I know what you're thinking: How could an activity stream-centric phone possibly appeal to corporate types? My answer is Enterprise 2.0, also known as the collaborative imperative that's sweeping the business world. OK, maybe I'm slightly ahead of the curve -- and the market -- here, but I think there's the germ of something big brewing.
Now that I've given my two negatives, here are the three big pluses of Windows Phone 7:
Plus: Microsoft Finally Got The Software Right. This is actually the least interesting reason why Windows Phone 7 should slowly but surely carve out a niche amongst Blackberry, iPhone, and Android, because getting it right should be a given.
When I mentioned at Monday's event my tortoise-and-hare market scenario -- Microsoft is the tortoise -- my listener responded: "Microsoft spent $400 million on Windows Phone 7. A small market share would be failure." To paraphrase Ann Landers: And what would their market share be if they hadn't spent the $400 million?
If one steps back from the reflexive tendency to deprecate everything Microsoft does, it think it's fair to say that the company is getting over its developmental paralysis and is making early progress in getting away from its overreliance on Windows and (old-style) Office. The object cases are Windows Phone 7, the Azure cloud computing service, and the enterprise 2.0-enabled Office 2010 (and SharePoint).